November 19, 2009

FGFS: a defense

Not really a defense, as I don't feel I need to defend it to anyone. Haters will always hate, people will always dislike whatever teenagers are into, the ignorant will always feel threatened by things they don't understand.

Recently The Come Up made a post about why he dislikes tricks on fixed gears and the disdain with which some in the BMX community hold fixed gear freestyle has come to a head, and I figured I'd use this as an opportunity to explain why I like to do tricks on my stupid bike.
(for reference I am not anti BMX in anyway I think it's awesome)

Original Come Up post
Prolly's response

First off let me say that I agree that it's silly and ridiculous to do tricks on a bike that makes every trick harder. I never imagined that at 30 years old I'd be hanging out in parking lots with kids half my age. There's an inherent absurdity in all of it, but I've never been one to be deterred by absurdity.

For me the best part is that when I started riding fixed gear I would shit my pants if I had to go up or down a curb. I've ridden bikes my whole life, mtn, road, BMX, everything. And in fixed gear I found a whole new mindset and way of looking at bicycles, cities, and by extension my whole environment. Suddenly that hill had a whole new meaning, and riding was a constant challenge to cope with the changing environment as I made my way through the city. So many things that I took for granted on a coasting bike were thrown in sharp relief and riding felt like a primal battle for survival.

The fact that I can now hop curbs, ledges, and throw this bike around which at one time was a dainty fragile little death machine, is incredible. I know that whatever the city throws at me I can handle. There may be easier bikes to do these things on but none are as challenging or rewarding as doing them fixed. If you can do it fixed you can do it on anything.

The skills I've learned have definitely translated to my other bikes, my pedal stroke has smoothed out, my bike handling skills have gotten better, and I'm a more confident rider all around. It's true that if I had spent as much time on a BMX bike as I do on my fixed gear many of those same things would have happened. The problem is that it's just not in the cards for me to spend large amounts of time on a BMX bike. A bike that is so specialized for tricks that it has lost it's utilitarian usefulness.

I own several track bikes (I helped start a company that makes track and fixed gear parts and bikes) but now I find myself always grabbing the fixie freestyler instead. It's true that it's not as fast as my trackie, but unless I'm in a huge rush it's not that much slower and I'd rather spend my time in transit practicing wheelies, scoping places to ride, and playing on my bike. As you might imagine with this attitude I'm not stoked on tiny wheels, dirt jump frames with slammed seats, slammed seats in general, or anything else that neuters the bike's ability to be ridden distances comfortably. I feel like the current generation of FGFS bikes is a perfect balance between functionality and trick riding, but to each his own. It's just my personal preference. Just like if you want to ride a track bike for transportation and a BMX bike for tricks (referring to several comments on the Come Up post) go ahead, but I don't understand the issue when I decide to combine those aspects into a machine I can do it all on.

The argument then becomes that riding fixed gear freestyle is not the best of both worlds but an ugly bastardization of BMX. The argument of the tricks looking stupid or silly is really just an opinion in the mind of the person levying the judgement.
Take for example a video I posted today

"Tom" and "Wonka" from on Vimeo.

I think the tricks look great. If you don't that's fine. But what's with the venom? It seems like a bigger part of that sentiment hangs greatly on the notion that fgfs "steals" or detracts from BMX in some way and that seems to me like a very juvenile point of view. Didn't BMX borrow from motocross and skateboarding? Isn't it natural that since many FGFS riders rode or ride BMX that many elements would transfer? Isn't the whole idea of culture based on the idea of borrowing and adapting customs and ideas? It's the human condition, not some blight on the sport of BMX. I often wonder if many of the anti fixed gear sentiment stirred up is a reaction to the fact that so many BMX companies are hopping on the fixed gear bandwagon. Me, I'm all for it, and stoked that companies like Volume had employees who rode fixed and wanted to build a fixed gear that shared some of the same characteristics and styling cues as their other bikes. BMX culture is not losing anything by influencing fgfs and is in fact being subsidized by fixed gear kids. (true)

The bottom line for me is that this is my favorite bike to ride around town on currently. I can hop, play, ride traffic, bomb hills, do whatever I want on the same bike. Spending hours learning a new trick and dialing it in is incredibly rewarding. The day I learned to legitimately ride fakie was one of the best of last summer. I like the fact that I'm part of a growing bicycle movement the world over. I'm proud to be associated with a company that supports and is helping to grow the "sport" and urban cycling as a whole. For whatever reason fixed gear freestlye has captured my imagination in a way that other types of riding simply haven't. I own an urban mtb, but never ride it because it's a bitch to ride that thing to a spot to session. I'd rather ride all over and have the whole city be my "spot."

So that's it, I ride because I enjoy it. I enjoy the people, I cherish the good times I've had and the good times to come aboard my stupid bike that makes everything harder and nothing easier.

Guess that was a defense. All I'm saying is that for me, this is the bike that I'm always excited to ride.
If someone has a problem with a bike that you love to ride, my friend, the problem is definitely not yours. Fuck em.

P.S. I think it's weird that no one (especially the haters) makes the comparison that fixed gears are the rollerblades of the 00's. It'a a pretty harsh slap in the face but if you think about it, it's a pretty funny and uncomfortably apt comparison.

P.P.S. if you dislike fixed gears because of hipsters and fashion and kids:
I understand, no one likes hipsters or fashion or kids, but don't take it out on the machine. The culture is a way easier target.

peace out, I'm going for a ride
yesteday I started learning sliders to half cab and I'm super pumped to get them dialed



RatherBeBiking said...

sounds good. do what you do and ignore what angry bitter people yell from the sidelines..

scissorneck said...

hear hear!!!!!! ya its weird hangin with dudes that are 15 years younger then me....

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah, Jeff. Great post!

ViciousG42 said...

everyone should lighten up, dont take shit too seriously. hell even in a very very classic sport, where there was a lot of animosity between different styles(i fenced when i was a lot younger, i did foil and sabre, which i placed 4th in state competition), i managed to take on each with a smile for the other.. people need to just take everything with a more open mind. there's aspects of all things that are different or more difficult.

Jihad said...

Everybody needs to chill and just ride! You should never have to defend what you do for fun just because of what you read on the interweb. There are like 500 crappy comments for 1,175 billion web users. Stop listening to these fools who spend half of their day talking about what we do. It's a compliment that they feel so threatened.

PS They do compare it with rollerblading:

C to the Haar said...

Nice points, Mr. Frane. I was on the fence about FGFS, but now I'm on your side. I still don't like hipsters, but who doesn't?

JB said...

Jeff Frane for President! Most eloquently stated Jeff, nice work.

Da Robot said...

Many people believe that what other people do is somehow important, that is somehow reflects either positively or negatively on what they do.

Each of us has to find something in cycling that thrills us the way that first wobbly ride did. I'm not a big fan of recumbents or tandems, but if someone finds what they're looking for on one of those bikes, that's really just great for them.

Andy said...

good defense jeff. one thing i did find of merit in the come up's article was how bmx'rs try not to pedal when they hit something. opened my eyes to their arguement a little.

Jeff said...

I'll definitely agree with that, but at the same time I found it startling that they're such nazi's when it comes to style and made me really glad that that FGFS doesn't exist within in a similar framework. It's too young to have a defined style, and I think that's awesome. Anything goes.

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